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The struggle to be heard and what you can do about it

Posted
03/08/2015

I grew up in a house full of voices. A radiogram, remember those? If you’re over 40 years old the likelihood is that you will! It was nothing sophisticated, but it was a revelation to us, permanently tuned to Radio 2.

My Mum was a singer, and before you start thinking Callas, her style was more Dolly than Debussy. She sang country and western music with a variety of local covers bands. My Dad was obsessed with movie soundtracks and my brother and I used to accompany Mum to her rehearsals in the less than prepossessing clubs on Union Street in Plymouth, where we grew up.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that my brother became a guitarist and I became an actress and singer!

Voices remain at the very heart of my life today. It’s not just my voice, but the voices of people who have no aspirations to perform who I can hear every day. People who work in business, media, government, finance, consultancy, sport, science, the arts, teaching, every possible profession.

The struggle to express ourselves

When you speak do you hear yourself as you believe yourself to ‘be’? Many people do not. For many people there is a dislocation between their perception of who they are (and who they wish to be) and the sound that comes out of their mouth when they try to express themselves.

Some things in life we can control and some we can’t.

We can learn to control our voices. Understanding how they work, physiologically and psychologically can help us feel more whole, like all the pieces of ourselves add up to the same equation.

Our voices are emotional. They have a life of their own. They reflect our life’s ups and downs, its joys and trials. The sound we put out into the world imitates our experience of being in the world, whether we recognise that or not.

The link between our emotions and our voices

I know a thing or two about the confidence link between our voices and how we’re feeling in our heads and hearts.

When I lost one of my dearest friends, in 1995, and I was performing in my first West End show, my voice disappeared completely, and it took some time to be coaxed back to life, with professional help.

I’ve been a performer for 26 years. I’ve charted my voice’s journey, and how truthfully I feel it has represented who I am and how I relate to my life. I know when my voice is sad, joyful, scared – but as a person who relies on their voice for a career, I have to be able to technically trust that I can manage whatever is happening in my life.

Having a voice at work

I’ve worked as a speech, presentations and personal impact coach for 16 years, across the sectors, throughout Europe and the U.S. One particular aspect of my coaching demographic has become a fascination for me; the number of women, often young women, who consistently express a concern that they struggle to ‘have a voice’ in their working environments.

These women I work with are intelligent, vivacious, confident, successful people who fear they are unable to create the impression they wish to create: to be taken ‘seriously’ by others. They fear they are perceived as lacking gravitas, and that their ideas go unheard because they’re not used to projecting their strength as human beings through their voices.

I’ve thought about why this is, in an age where women are consistently taking ownership of their personal power and personal lives. Our society projects a confusing message to young women that being ‘small’ equates with femininity, particularly physically, but, in my experience, also their voices and ways of self-expression too.

I worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London for 6 years, an institution dominated by men in positions of seniority. Being taken seriously was a major issue for many young women and it was vital for their progression that they seized the opportunity to develop their physical and vocal presence, taking up more space, not just physically but also taking ownership of the airwaves!

Transforming and empowering

I love working with these thousands of women, because I empathise with their journey. I’ve been one of them at times in my life, and know how disempowering it can feel to sense that one isn’t being heard. I also know how empowering it is to gain the skills and freedom that comes with developing a voice that is clear and rich and powerful!

I’ve watched people transform, as they realise that they need only their own permission to free their voices and the technical skills to support them to enhance and enable their vocal range and capacity.

Our voice is the physical manifestation of our unique identity. The summation of our heritage and our life’s experience.

We should remember that the ability to develop our own unique voice is available to everyone and it should be joyful and fun!

My approach is a ‘whole person’ one. It involves bodywork, breathing and relaxation techniques, psychological investigation and exploration of text using actor techniques, leading to increased self-awareness and the ability to feel in control under all of life’s varying circumstances. Why not take the time to discover your own voice, you may surprise yourself with what you find!

Our programme Speak to be Heard, is facilitated by Corinna Powlesland and Glyn Fussell and has recently added new dates. You can find out more about how you can discover the power of your voice on this two day workshop here.

Corinna Powlesland

Associate

Internationally acclaimed speech, voice and presentation coach

Corinna Powlesland